Astrolux TP01 Review (Tactical Pen, Titanium, Parker Refill)

Today I have something a little different from my typical flashlight or electronic review in a writing pen from Astrolux the TP01. This is Astrolux’s first pen on the market and it’s available in titanium and aluminum, so let’s take a look and see how they did. Thanks to Banggood for sending this one to me to review. I will have a link with a discount available in the description below.

 

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Packaging

The Astrolux TP01 pen is packaged much like recent flashlights from Astrolux, in a white cardboard box with silver foil on the front. On the side is a sticker showing which version you received. Inside the pen was nicely protected in foam. Included was a bag of accessories which included a T6 torx wrench for the clip screws, and a small Allen key for the interior set pin. You get a set of extra screws and an extra set screw, as well as an extra spring for the pen. You also get a little pouch which has faux leather on one side and then a wool/felt front side and a snap to keep it closed. I have been using this since the clip isn’t the best.

One quick note is that Astrolux does sell a holder for this pen to display it on your desk. But the price is quite high, only about $10 less then the aluminum version of this pen. 

 

Construction

The Astrolux TP01 pen comes in 3 material choices. The one I have here in front of me is an anodized titanium in the wave pattern, but it’s also available in stainless steel, and anodized aluminum. The titanium comes in a raw, and then 2 colors as well. What I have here is the wave pattern which I just love. It looks like a heat anodized mokuti pattern but is indeed flat. It has blues, purples and a little bronze in it. It does a good job of breaking up finger prints pretty well.

The body is 8 sided, with the corners rounded in the center of the body, at the tip in the grip area it comes down into 4 flats that kind of pinch inwards and then back into 8 sides for the tip. This anodized pattern really does a good job of making that all blend in.

The bolt itself is a rectangle with 3 lines of jimping on it to provide some grip. I will talk more about how it functions later on.

 

The clip is the last area I want to talk about on this pen. It’s attached with 2 T6 screws, on mine it doesn’t make contact with the body. My big problem with the clip is how little area is milled out from the body. The result is a clip that has trouble attaching to anything but the absolute thinnest material. If you use a front pocket in a shirt this would work, but anything else thats thicker then it just doesn’t have the clearance. For me this is the biggest draw back of this pen and the ability to EDC it. 

Demonstrate Disassembly

Disassembly on this pen requires tools  but easy enough after you have done it. To disassemble you will need a T5 and T6 torx bits/wrench. Astrolux includes a pair of these in the box which is nice, or you can use your own like I am here. First step is to take the pen top off. Inside is the very small hex set pin which fits a T5 bit, which once unscrewed allows the bolt to come out of the side of the pen (Flat spot facing up), when then allows the carrier, cartridge, and spring to come out the rear. 

Reassembly is the opposite, place the spring on the cartridge and into the body. Then place the bolt in taking care to orient the hole for the handle to face the milled slot. Place the handle in with the flat facing up, and then screw in the set pin tight. 

 

The clip uses T6 screws, lucky a small T6 torx wrench is included with the pen. The clip is not required to be removed for the cartridge to be changed.

 

Size and Weight

Length I measured at 119mm, diameter at 11mm. Weight with the cartridge is 33.6g. This is a little shorter then your standard pen. A Pilot G2 is 143mm tip to tip. The shorter length doesn’t bother me on this one.

For comparison on weight, my Brass TiScribe Bolt with cartridge is 34.9g, and my Nitecore NTP30 also in titanium is 28.8g. So the Astrolux TP01 even being made of titanium is a heavy compared with the nicer bolt action pens I have.

Feel in the Hand

So how is the bolt action on this pen? At first I wasn’t super impressed with it but it’s grown on me. The tolerances on this isn’t as tight as either of my other bolt action pens, but the price here is a lot less as well. The result of that increase in tolerances is you get some more noise in the body. The downwards stroke takes a bit more resistance and when you release it, it’s a little more violent to slam to the shut position. As it’s broken in this has improved.

 

As for in the hand, the 4 flats on the grip area of the pen is a little weird for how I grip a pen with 3 fingers. It’s not uncomfortable but not as good as a round or triangle shape either. It’s perfectly fine for an hour or two meetings, but not something I would want to write with all day. 

How it writes

The pen cartridge it comes with is a pretty generic medium tip ball point pen cartridge. It’s not bad, but not great either. I have been using it at work to take notes for a couple of weeks and it does the job just fine but isn’t special. The good news is that it does take Parker style refills so you can put in something better if you want to, and sourcing refills is easy as long as you don’t lose your torx drivers that are required to change it. 

 

Pro’s

  • Pretty affordable especially in aluminum.
  • Uses a common Parker style refill
  • Beautiful anodizing on the 2 anodized titanium models

 

Con’s 

  • Pocket clip has basically no clearance for any material. 
  • Disassembly requires tools and is somewhat complex. 
  • 4 sided grip area isn’t as nice as a 3 sided or round grip.There isn’t any grip or texturing present.

 

Conclusion

If you were looking for an inexpensive bolt action pen to try out, and wanted something that took a standard cartridge that was easy to get your hands on this is a good choice of pens to get started. I love that Astrolux decided to make this pen in 3 different materials at 3 different price points. It allows everyone to try a nicer pen at any price standpoint. I am a big titanium fan so that’s what I went with on this one, and the anodizing is beautiful, but I think the best bang for the buck is one of the aluminum options. Definitely make sure you check the links below and check these out on Banggods website. 

 

If you have enjoyed my first pen review, please let me know in the comments below. I have a couple of other pens that I could review in the future such as my Nitecore NTP30 or USG TiScribe in brass. 

 

Save 24% on the Astrolux TP01 Titanium Bolt Pen at http://bit.ly/2yILZ1r with code: BGATTBA (24%off) 

Fireflies E07 Review (7 LED + Secondary LEDs, 21700, up to 6900 lumens)

Fireflies is a newer flashlight brand to the market that’s bring multiple emitter option lights with secondary LED’s to the market. Today I am looking at the E07 a 7x LED light with secondary emitter running Toykeepers Anduril UI. Thanks to Banggood for sending this to me to take a look at and review. Make sure you see the bottom of the post for the discount that’s been provided on this light.

 

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Packaging

The light comes packaged in a black cardboard box with fireflies logo embossed on it. There is a sticker on the side with the lights specs handwritten in. Inside the light is protected in foam. Extras include 2 spare orings, a wrist lanyard with clip that connects at the head, a pocket clip that connects at the tail only, a nice adapter to allow you to run an 18650 battery, and a nice manual that’s not micro sized. The manual is really nice for a newer brand, it mostly goes over the UI and has the diagram many of us are familiar with, but also a kind of quick start guide on the back for specific tasks. 

Construction

Fireflies offers 4 body colors available and of those Banggood is currently carrying 3 of them. A Matte black, desert yellow which  is a more yellow tan, and a gun gray, which is what I have here. Branding on the light is minimal with only a heat warning, model number and manufacture on the light body. On the tail cap there is a bit of minimal required marks and a serial number. The tail cap is flat and allows the light to tail stand nicely. It has a few flats to allow you to unscrew it more easily. Inside you have a low resistance spring mounted to the circuit board. Threads were dry and rather shallow but square cut. 

The pocket clip only attaches at the rear and is kind of short. Overall diameter of this light isn’t too bad, it’s front pocketable as an EDC but on the bigger side for that. Retention with the clip is good but I do wish it carried a bit deeper. The body tube has square nub milling on it, kind of like a small frag design. I like this, it’s grippe but not aggressive. Threads on the head side of the body tube are anodized, very fine, ACME cut, and also dry. 

 

The head itself is pretty small, and grows in diameter to accommodate the 7 emitters + secondary LED’s inside. Inside the spring in the head is short, and fairly heavy gauge wire. It has a blob of solder that’s been filed down to I presume help improve contact. On the outside there is heatsinking. The electronic button on the side has 4 LED’s underneath that can indicate a few things depending on the mode. The color of these LED’s is the same as the secondary on your light. 

The circuit boards in the head of this light is a bit non traditional for a flashlight, The white emitters and secondary emitters are actually on separate circuit boards that are stacked on top of each other with wires hand soldered on to connect the two boards. There are 3 pots that allow you adjust the intensity of the secondary. I was unable to find a screwdriver to fit mine to a point I was comfortable adjusting them though. The front bezel is a polished stainless steel. It’s easy to unscrew the front bezel as it’s not glued on. Underneath is the glass lens and optic. Overall build quality is pretty good for this price range of light. 

Size/Weight/Comparisons

I measured the length at 114mm, maximum diameter at the head at 37mm, and minimum diameter on the center body section at 25mm. Weight with the Sofrin 21700 battery is 187.6g. 

I compared the light to the Emmisar D4, because it’s pretty common multi emitter light, even though it uses a 18650 and the E07 uses a 21700. The D4 is shorter, obviously, and the head is smaller, but the body tube is pretty similar. Both are high performance affordable lights with great UI’s by Toykeeper and in mine both are using the Nichia LEDs. 

 

LED | Beamshots | Heat | Runtime

My light is using 7x Nichia 219B R9080 LEDs for it’s primary emitter. This is one of my favorites not only because it has 98 CRI but also because it produces a good amount of red meaning colors are more realistic. The downside is this Nichia LED’s isn’t the most efficient around and produces the least amount of lumens (3500) then the SST20 (4500 Lumens) or XPL-HI LED (6900 Lumens) that the light are also available with. This is really nice that you have 6 emitter and tint options with this light in addition to it’s 4 body colors. That also said the Nichia 219B are the most sensitive to being over driven with the FET in this light, so choice of battery is important. 

 

On my light the secondary emitters are purple, other colors fireflies sells are red and blue. The secondaries do shut off when low voltage protection kicks in at 2.935V, but the LED’s on the switch do not. For this reason if you are not going to use the light for a long time, it would be best to mechanically lock it out with a slight twist of the tail cap or remove the battery. 

Heat is a big thing on this light. It’s a small compact size and can output a ton of light. The fact that I have the Nichia emitters on my example here doesn’t help the heat issue. On turbo the light heats up very quickly, in under 2 minutes I was seeing temps of 61C (142F) on the head opposite the button. This kind of proves to be a problem as you need some resistance to click the button and turn it off or down. Thermals do spread out on the light relatively well, the body tube tail cap remain cool enough to handle when in turbo. For me this is too hot to hold comfortably. Lucky you can configure thermals on this light in the UI, so I might be turning it down a bit. 

 

Ruintime

Runtime on the Fireflies E07 is 100% temperature dependent. Turbo by itself is good for less then a minute before step down due to heat. Your actual runtimes do vary up and down between roughly 25% and 50% as you can see on my graph for just over 100 minutes. At this point the light goes into it’s lowest mode due to the battery voltage for the remaining 150 minutes. Low voltage protection kicks in 2.935V.

 

Batteries

I am using some Sofirn 21700 batteries that Banggood sent out with this light. Being a FET powered light you want usually high drain, but in this application a medium drain cell is good especially for these Nichia LED’s as they are a little more sensitive to being over driven. The Sofirns fit that nicely, they are listed at 4000mAh and I measured them at a capacity of 3868mAh and 3861mAh respectively on my Xtar VC4s.

UI

This light is using Toykeeper’s Anduril UI. It’s currently one of my favorites available as it has a ton of options and neat little easter eggs that commercial UI’s don’t include. By default the light comes in ramping UI which is where I left it. The ramping is fast and logical. A stepped mode is a vailable that you can configure as well if you prefer. The light has thermal controls, you can configure beacon mode, as well as 5 types of strobe including candle mode, party strobe, and lightning storm. How practical these are could be a point where one could argue, but I like that they are present and it just makes things fun. One of the neat thing the UI has is sunset mode, which allows the light to run in and slowly fade out over I believe a 30 minute time period then shut off. Overall just about anything you want to do is in this UI and it’s’ a great choice for a light. 

Pro

  • Big lumen flood light with great emitters.
  • Always on secondary that can be toggled off via UI. The secondary is adjustable internally. 
  • 3 body color and 6 emitter options available (from Banggood), so something for almost everyone without mods.
  • 21700 battery – Provides a bit more runtime, and a nice size for the head.
  • Early QC issues seem to have been fixed on this light.

 

Con

  • Early models had some QC problems, I have run mine quite a bit and have not had issues with it so far.
  • Heat – 7 Nichia emitters make a lot of collective heat

 

Conclusion

The Fireflies E07 packs a ton of features for well under $100. So many emitter options, as well as body options allows you to really find the perfect combination for you. While I love the 98 CRI Nichia 219B emitter in my light you might choose one of  the others that offers more lumens. The biggest downside to this light is probably the heat, but you expect that in a small form factor light that has 7 main emitters. I do like that they went with a 21700 battery here over an 18650 for a bit more runtime without going with a larger 26650. Overall it’s a high value light that I recommend for the flashaholic. 

 

Banggood has provided a coupon to allow you to get the Fireflies E07 at a better then list price. I will have the details for that in the comments below. Make sure to give that link a click and check it out.

 

As always I think you for watching this video. If you are not subscribed to my channel I would appreciate you do so, make sure you like and share this video with anyone who you might think would be interested in it. See you on the next gear review video! 

 

Discounts

Fireflies E07 7x Nichia/XPL/SST20 Flashlight: Save 15% with code: BGFFBD at http://bit.ly/2JlGoUX  

2X Sofirn 21700 Batteries: $11.39 with code BGREC at http://bit.ly/2FYtuKk 

ReyLight Gemini Review (Triple SST-20, 18350, 304 Stainless Steel)

Reylight has a new more budget entry to their existing line of Triple LED EDC style flashlights, the Reylight Gemini. The Gemini makes a few design and material changes over the Dawn and Krystal models to reduce cost to make this a more affordable light. Full disclosure, Rey at Reylight is a friend and send me this light to evaluate and review. I will do my best to remain impartial and give an honest review.

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Packaging

Packaging consisted of an unbranded plastic case that clamps on all 3 sides, with an oring in the lid, and with foam inserts to keep everything from moving during transport. The light comes with a pocket clip attached and 3 GITD tail cap boots that are currently shipping, make sure to check my social media and I will post a picture when they arrive. 

I do think Reylight should consider including a paper manual with the lights they sell or at least a link on the website to the UI. Even though it’s a pretty common UI (Bistro) a lot of first timers end up asking questions in the Reylight Facebook group that could be answered with the manual. 

 

Construction

The Gemini is made from 304 Stainless Steel. This isn’t a super common material used on flashlights. In talking with Rey he liked the solid and cool feel of steel, and how it can take a high polish. The downside is that it does weight a bit more, I will cover that in the size and weight section.  

The Gemini uses a forward clicky switch with a textured silicone boot over the button. It’s pretty deeply recessed which allows the light to tail stand without and issue. While there isn’t any place on the tail for a tritium vial like all of the previous Reylights, I really like how this button feels when used, without any slop like you sometimes see on metal buttons. It’s a nice touch to come with 3 additional colors (Green, Orange, Blue) to add some personalization. The only negative I see with this design is it does collect some dust around the boot of the light and wall. 

The walls of the Gemini are pretty thick in diameter, I think this is one thing where the light could be made a bit smaller in diameter while still feeling good in the hand and it would reduce weight. The body tube has a large diamond pattern milled in using what looks to be a round nose ball mill. The edges of the diamond are not chamfered over so this provides some grip without being too aggressive. 

The head is mostly smooth. There are 4 larger teardrops with circles to give the light some design. You can see some milling marks inside these. The head has a non removable bezel that 4 semi circles cut into it to give a little relief and allow light to escape.The lens in use is a sapphire lens which provides superior scratch resistance and is surprising at this price point. A green glow oring is a nice touch too.

Stock clip is the same design that was on the Reylight Dawn but made of a relatively thick stainless steel that’s been nicely tumbled. Retention out of the package was quite good and I don’t think people will have a big issue here with clips getting caught or bent on things. There is plenty of room at the top for various thicknesses of pants. It does like to hold onto your parents a bit more than normal and i think this is because the clip touches the body at a place where it grows in diameter. The screw pattern is also “standard” so other clips on the market such as steel flame will fit if you want to replace the clip or personalize your light further.

Last thing I will mention is that since this light is made of steel my advice would be to put a light coat of oil on it just for preventative measures to prevent rust. If you are a knife guy, most pocket knives are made of stainless steel and depending on the alloy used some can pit and rust even if they are “stainless”. This light is the same, depending on how much you use it, your sweat, and climate it’s possible you could see a little rust. I noticed just a tiny spot on mine, that has basically disappeared after a very light coat of Ballistol. 

 

Size & Weight/Comparisons

When I first heard this light was going to be made of stainless steel, I was worried about the weight. Stainless steel isn’t a lightweight metal but I was surprised that it’s lighter than copper and brass by 12.45% and 8.05% respectively. That said Titanium blows it out of the water with it being 54% lighter. The weight I measured the stainless steel Gemini was 133.9g without the battery.

Size wise this is pretty similar to a lot of triple LED lights on the market that take 18350 batteries. I measured it at 80mm. This is very close to the dawn at 82mm. Maximum diameter at 25mm, minimum at 23.5mm. In the photos below I compare it to the Reylight Dawn in copper, and the Emmisar D4 with the 18350 tube installed.

LED/Beamshot/Runtime/Heat

The LED in use in my Gemini is SST-20 in 4000k in high CRI. Also available is the Cree XPL-HI in 6000k. While I am a big fan of the Nichia 219 B/C that Reylight typically offers, it’s not the most efficient or cost effective LED in the market any longer. The high CRI version of the SST-20 is 95. 

Reylight claims 2000 lumens on turbo mode with the SST-20 LED’s and 3000 lumens with the XPL-HI LED’s.

 

Heat

This light does get hot pretty quickly on higher output modes. This is pretty common on triples. This light does thermal cycle pretty fast within about 1.5 minutes on turbo output, and if you keep pushing it it gets too hot to hold. Unfortunately my infrared thermometer doesn’t like the highly reflective steel here so I didn’t get a good reading on an actual number.

 

Beamshot

The beamshot is fairly even for a triple. Nothing perfect but nothing glaring either. The opic in use here is the same size as a carclo 10507, but a Chinese version. 

For my runtimes I did both a standard uncooled test and a cooled test where I had a fan blow across the light. In both I used a Keeppower 1200mAh battery.

 

For the cooled runtime test the light had a seesaw output as it delt with heat for 25 minutes while still providing the most output it can as the battery declines in voltage.. For me the amount it decreases by is just a little too much too often. My advice would be to use the least amount of light to get your task done with this light rather then maximum output to conserve power and keep the light output as stable as possible. Total useful output time was 45 minutes, but 25 minutes of that saw the highest output and seesaw outputs. 

Uncooled runtimes were actually longer due to the light ramping down due to heat and staying lower to manage the heat, thus using less overall power and more runtime. 

We saw similar output patterns with the Reylight Dawn in Titanium, but my Reylight Dawn in Copper was better about this because its ability to dissipate heat to the environment is much better. The good news here is since the light is running a modified Bistro the firmware parameters can be modified to change the runtime behavior. It isn’t all that uncommon for Triple LED lights to reduce output in an extreme to manage heat, but most stay lower, requiring the user to bump up when they need more output. Low voltage protection kicked in at 2.904v. 

 

To show this ramping down and up due to heat I shot a 6 minute video of this happening and sped it up https://youtu.be/jTCe-K_ZHOI?t=785

 

UI

The light uses a modified Bistro firmware, with 23 total modes. Pretty standard with lots of configurable options if you like. Chances are you probably own a light with Bistro already here, so nothing new to learn.

 

In the default mode you get 5 brightness modes in a pretty linear outputs, starting low and going high. In the default configuration memory mode is turned on.

 

I will leave some links to where you can see more about the firmware and a helpful diagram if your going to change anything on the light such as thermal controls. Or mode groups 

http://budgetlightforum.com/node/54621

 

Pro

  • Pretty affordable 
  • Good LED choices available in nice tint’s and a high CRI option available.
  • NIce build quality for the price
  • Sapphire Lens – Superior scratch resistance and a great value at this price.
  • Standard Clip screw pattern.

 

Con

  • No tritium slots on this light, that’s something ReyLights have been known for. But it would increase cost of production.
  • Bistro in the default settings is pretty temperature sensitive and this light cycles from very bright to dim when it gets hot. This can be improved in the UI by changing the temp threshold.
  • Stainless steel conducts heat well so when it’s hot, it’s HOT!  

 

Conclusion

For the price point of around $100 this is a pretty affordable high value light. Stainless steel wouldn’t be my first choice for material for a flashlight but it does work here. It’s a bit heavy but I like the overall design. If you are used to carrying a copper light, stainless steel won’t be much different in wait. I could see future version getting a little thinner maybe, and other materials being used too. I think a brass or bronze here would be neat. I like the diamond pattern on the body, and that it’s aggressive but not too much so far. Retention is very strong on the light. It’s a little disappointing that there are no tritium slots as that’s something Reylight has been known for. If you are looking to dip your toes into the semi custom flashlight market this would be a good place to start at an affordable price point. 

 

Check out the Gemini on Reylights website at http://bit.ly/335LAEd 

Xtar ST2 Battery Charger Review (USB-C, Selectable Speed, Dual slot 4.1A Each)

Xtar has introduced their new 2 bay lithium ion based charger and it’s capable of charging 2 cells at 4.1A each from USB-C! It features selectable charging rates too. Thanks to Xtar from sending me this early unit for a quick look and review along with a few high drain batteries to test with.

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Packaging

The charger I received was early in the production cycle and didn’t actually come with any of the final retail packaging. The accessories that will be included with the final product are the charger itself, USB-C to C cable, and a USB-A to USB-C cable thats QC3 compliant. 

 

Construction

This charger is designed to charge cells 18650 and larger, primarily 18650, 18700, 20700, 21700, and 26650 batteries. To accomplish this Xtar made a few design changes. Instead of the positive end of the batteries facing the power plug, now the positive end faces the screen which is 180 degrees from pretty much all other chargers. Thankfully this is molded into the fire resistant plastic. They also designed the sliders (at the top) so no smaller batteries will fit, 18650’s are the minimum size. This charger should also charge protected 21700’s. Minimum size the charger accepts is 60mm, and maximum is 77mm. The charge now has temperature sensors on each bay in little metal pads that make direct contact with the batteries. 

The sides pick up the blue theme with accents and the entire thing is made of soft touch flame retardant plastic. There are vents on the back and bottom of the charger to aid in cooling. Overall it’s made pretty well and feels solid. 

As noted before the screen on this charger is on the bottom of it, and while the screen part itself is fairly small. Text is large enough and very clear. The background is a nice deep blue and text is white. The display shows the current voltage of the cell, Percentage of charge, charging speed, and temperature of the cell in centigrade. When you first plug in the charger it will do a test and show the resistance of the cell. 

Below the screen you do have two buttons for each charging slot. These control the charging speed of each slot, with your options being 1A, 2A, or 4.1A. If you hold the button for 1.5 seconds the backlight and LED will turn completely off for night charging, although the red and green LED indicators (Charging/Charged) will stay on. The backlight will go to sleep after a few second under normal operation. 

Here are some photos of the interior of the charger. My only concern is that the wires to the temperature sensor are very thin and I could see these potentially getting caught in the spring or mechanism. 

 

Rather then read out the input and output specs I will throw a picture in here. 

 

Charging via QC3

When charging via QC3, the charger is not capable of charging 2 batteries at 4.1A each. Instead it will charge 2 batteries at a maximum of 2A each. If you drop down to one cell it will charge at 4.1A. There is no indicator on the screen what your power source is, if it’s QC2 or QC3. 

 

Charging via USB-C!

For maximum performance across both bays, the best thing is to use a power supply that capable of at least 40W (measured at the wall) or more via USB-C PD. I used my Innergie 60C charger for my testing because it’s the only USB-C charger I have that could deliver enough power. I tried my Xtar EU4 with USB-C but when loading up 2 batteries it would shut off when I tried to charge both at 4.1A. 

 

When charging 2x 21700 batteries at 4.1A each at the start the charger was drawing 40W @ 0.74A at the wall. The cells started off at 24C. At 7% charger they had heated up to 30C. At 25% charge they were 45C and this was as hot as the charger reported things as getting, and my infrared thermometer measured similar temps. Total time to charge both 4000mAh 31700 batteries from 3.5V to 4.2 was 1 hour 25 minutes.  Terminating voltage was 4.188V

When charging both cells at 2A, I measured a total of 22W of power at the wall, and when charging both at 1A I measured 12W at the wall. These lesser power modes could easily allow you to charge off lesser capable power supplies or using QC3. 

Pro’s

  • USB-C PD! Finally we have a charger utilizing USB-C and PD. QC3 is also an option with a A to C cable.
  • Speed, this is one of the fastest chargers on the market, able to charge at 4.1A on each bay simultaneously. Great for those high capacity 21700’s and 26650’s if you need the speed.
  • Selectable Charger Rate, this is something we need from Xtar’s other chargers such as the X and VC series chargers.
  • Direct and continuous measurement of the temp of the battery, great for safety when charging at such high rates.

 

Con’s

  • When using USB-C you must plug the charger in first then insert the batteries.
  • Cell orientation is backwards from most other chargers with positive terminal facing the user.
  • Unit shuts off when not receiving enough power (USB-C) instead of charging slower or giving a warning. This is kind of frustrating sometimes.
  • Larger Lithium batteries only, Unfortunately this isn’t a perfect one stop charger because it doesn’t support Ni-HM cells or smaller Lithium ion like 18350 or 14500.

 

Conclusion

It’s nice to see a charger finally use USB-C PD and have a battery charger from Xtar that allows you to change the speed of the charge too. The ST2 look a lot like the Xtar Over Slim 4 and has similar specs but with a USB-C input and no USB outputs.

 

To take advantage of the speed of this charger you really need to use USB-C power supply, and it needs to have a fairly large power output. My Xtar EU4 can put out about 45W on USB-C but that wasn’t enough to charge both cells at 4.1A and the charger shut off, and only my 60W charger was enough. 

 

That said, in most applications I don’t recommend charging your larger batteries at 4.1A each, while it’s safe it does heat them up and causes some unnecessary wear and tear, and shortens they life by a small amount. This would be good for a quick top up if speed was necessary or maybe a boost early on in the charging and then turn down the speed as you go. This fast of charging should only be done on high drain batteries. So at 2A charging this charger needs a much less demanding power supply and this is where QC3 or a more modest USB-C charger comes into play. 

 

This is a good charger for those looking for full USB-C support and outright charging performance in a small package and don’t mind not being able to charge smaller then 18650 lithium batteries or Ni-HM cells. 

 

You can pickup the Xtar ST2 at Banggood and get it for $$29.90 using code:YXST2 at bit.ly/2Y4q92D

On on AliExpress from Xtar Directly at bit.ly/2xXy07B

 

Follow Xtar on Social Media. 

https://www.instagram.com/xtar_official/?hl=en

https://www.facebook.com/ShenzhenXTAR/

Xtar VC4S Review (4 Bay, QC3, Capacity Testing & Storage Mode)

Xtar has an updated 4 bay charger on the market the VC4s. This is a do it all charger, with the ability to charge a wide variety of battery chemistries and sizes. The VC4s has QC3 input that allows for a maximum of 3A charging speed on one bay and the ability to do capacity testing, resistance testing while charging and also a storage mode. Thanks to Xtar for sending this to me to take a look at. 

 

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Packaging

Packaging is a nicely done retail style white box, with full color photos on front and back of the charger. On the sides it shows the types of batteries it supports and on the back is a more technical details. Inside the charger is surrounded by a clear plastic mold. Accessories are limited to the manual and a MicroUSB cable capable of QC3, and a nice silk style bag to put everything in. No AC charger is included here and it’s up to the owner to supply their own (Preferably with QC3).

https://i2.wp.com/i.imgur.com/kuSFGMZ.jpg?resize=525%2C295&ssl=1

Construction

The Xtar VC4s is a well built charter. It’s solid in the hand with no molding issues, creeks or cracks. On the top side it has only one input, a microUSB connector labeled QC3. On the bottom it has vents for the internal electronics. It also has a placard molded into the plastic with the input, output voltages, along with all the different sizes of cells and chemistries it supports. 

The top side features the spring loaded battery holders that expand to fit the different sizes of cells (too numerous to list). These are smooth and glide well, but provide enough tension to keep a cell in place. The most common sizes of batteries will fit this charger up to unprotected 21700 lithium batteries. The outside two slots are designed for batteries with larger diameters then 18mm. The inner two slots will fit a 21700 as long as it’s with a smaller battery next to it. 

 

The screen is 75mm by 32mm and a white and blue LCD on a black background. It’s clear and reasonably bright with a backlight that does dim after a minute or so. Each slot has a dial that shows the battery voltage, charging speed in the 3 to 6 oclock position, and then capacity at the bottom, this changes to full when finished. It’s enough information to get a good idea of what’s going on but not any more. 

Below the screen are two buttons that control the charger. On the left between slots 1 and 2 is the DISP button. This changes what the display is showing during the different modes. The choices are Cap (Capacity), Cur (Current), and IR (Resistance). The button on the right between slots 3 and 4 operate the different modes of the charger. Grad (Grading), Store (Storage).

 

I did take the charger apart and I will put up a few pictures of what I found inside. I didn’t see anything that concerned me, if you see something worth mentioning please make sure to comment about it. 

Recharging

The Xtar VC4s is capable of recharging Li-ion, IMR, INR, ICR, and Ni-MH batteries so this will cover the most common cells found today in your flashlights, vape pens, and other electronics. Let me run through some of the details here on the charging side of things. The charger does have 0 volt activation, and reverse polarity protection to keep things safe. I measured Li-ion Terminal Voltage at 4.161V and Ni-HM Terminal Voltage at 1.422V. 

Speed

Recharging speed is not manually configurable on this charger with a button but there are some things you can do to influence things. First the charger is capable of charging at up to 3A on one bay, if using a battery that is large enough (and low enough resistance), only having one cell connected at a time, and using a QC3 power source. As you start adding more batteries in the charger, speed slows down as current is shared between charging cells. I did observe 4 Eneloops charging all at 1A each as they were about half full. The charger can charge at 0.5a for smaller cells, 1A, 2A, and 3A. The only thing I dislike is that if charging 1 Ni-MH AA battery, I was able to charge it at an indicated 3A if no other batteries were in the charger at the start of charging. It eventually went to 2A as the cell came up in voltage. This is quicker then I would normally be comfortable charging this type of battery at. A dirty solution to fix this would be to insert another battery into the charger even if it’s fully charged. While QC3 is not required, I would strongly recommend using a charger that supports that so you can take advantage of the speed. 

Capacity Test

The Xtar VC4s has a nice additional feature of a capacity tester. I did some informal tests and compared it to my ISDT C4 tester which has a similar feature. On ISDT C4 charger with my Samsung 30Q battery, it tested capacity at 2788mAh, so very close. The Xtar VC4s tested the exact same battery at capacity of 2763mAh. I did the same thing with an Eneloop AA that I have had for several years and got 1906mAh on the VC4s, and 2109mAh on the ISDT C4. So a bit of a difference in results here. 

Storage Mode

In storage mode, the charger will charge or discharge cells accordingly to be at the optimal value for long term storage. This is a nice feature if you have a lot of batteries, or plan to put a cell in a light you intend to put away for a long time. Terminal voltage on a Samsung 30Q for the VC4s was 3.67V and you can do 4 at a time. 

It will even do storage on a NiHM cell but there isn’t as much reason to do this as there is on lithium chemistry cells.

Resistance

It’s an added feature to be able to toggle to view the resistance of a cell during charging. More information to know what’s going on is always nice. 

Pro

  • Nice to see some chargers start to use QC3 for power input.
  • I like the additional features here that allow you to charge, do a storage charge, and capacity testing as well as measure the cells resistance.
  • Wide range of battery support in size and battery chemistry, and faster then previous versions.
  • Affordable

 

Con

  • I would love to see information about the incoming power source on the display, at least the protocol thats being used.
  • MicroUSB for the power connection vs USB-C
  • Too fast of start charge for my taste if charging 1 AA Ni-MH cell.
  • No manual control over charging speed, the charger is pretty conservative so you should be safe.

 

Conclusion

The Xtar VC4s is a nice affordable upgrade over the VC4. The original VC4 was my main charger for the longest time because it was dead simple, safe, I liked the display and it was reliable. That said as time went on it was a bit slow, especially charging 4 cells at once. The VC4s improves these issues by adding QC3 which allows for more incoming voltage and thus faster charging. By modern standards this still isn’t a fast charger but I typically don’t need to charge batteries fast, and it’s actually better to charge them slower. I like the added features of testing capacity, and measure resistance during the charging cycle. These are things I will use as I test batteries. It’s a little disappointed to see USB-C not make the difference here and really give this a power boost but maybe that will be coming in a future model (hint hint). Overall this is a good charger and one I will be using to keep my cells full. I recommend it, as long as you have a QC3 power source (or purchase one) as well.

 

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Astrolux FT03 (Best value large thrower of 2019, Coupon Available)

Astrolux has a new lare thrower the FT03. It features a large deep reflector and a SST-40 LED to to give it throw. It’s mated to a 26650 battery tube (but it can accept 21700’s and 18650’s (With an adapter too) and features USB-C fast recharging. Thanks to Banggood for sending this too me. They do have a pretty aggressive coupon available for this if your interested.

 

Pickup the Astrolux FT03 SST40-W at http://bit.ly/31CYUzb and use Coupon Code: BGAFT03 to get the light for $29.99 USA ONLY

 

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Packaging

The light came in a white sturdy cardboard box with minimal info on the outside. The light was packaged in foam on the inside. The included accessories were minimal, with a lanyard, spare orings, manual, and an adapter to fit 18650 batteries. No charging cable comes with this light.

 

Construction

The light is made from aluminium and has smooth anodizing, in a fairly mat finish. Starting at the tail cap the light does tail stand very well, thanks to the notch cut in it’s side to allow the lanyard to go through. It has an octadecagon milled in for grip. On the inside it has dual springs inside the simple tail PCB.

The body tube is directional (Threads and anodizing are different on each) with 12 panels of knurling. It has to flats milled on each side and a grid pattern milled in too. It’s a nice feel in the hand without tearing up your skin or clothing.

Moving up to the head section we have the e-switch with LED’s under that act as a way to find the light in the dark and as a charge status indicator when charging. It has minimal heat syncing milled in to the sides. Opposite the button is the USB-C charging port with a silicone cover that fits well and flush. It doesn’t get in my way. The bell of the light is smooth as is the top part of the head. The deep bezel piece has large shallow crenelations on it that allows a bit of light to spread when face down.

 

Size & Weight

I measured the length at 170mm, Maximum diameter in the head at 70mm, minimum diameter in the body at 32mm on the flats. Weight with a 26650 battery was 396.7g.

The FT03 fit’s pretty well in my hand. To me the 26650 tubes feel pretty natural and I like the length and where my fingers and thumb fit. Ergonomics are good.

A bit of comparisons with the Thrunite Catapult V6

LED/Runtime/Beam Profile

The FT03 comes with a clear domed SST-40 LED in Cool or Neutral white. Mine is a NW example. It’s surrounded by a fairly smooth reflector that is deep and helps this light throw. The reflector leaves a decent amount of space around the LED, about ¼”. The lens is glass and double anti reflective coated. It’s using the Texas Star FET driver.

The beam profile is that of a pretty typical thrower. Small hot center where 90+% of the light is focused and then a spill. I don’t see any real undesirable traits. You do notice if there is anything on the lens that’s dirty or causes distortion.

Runtime

Since this is a FET driven light, a high drain cell is recommended for most performance. That means a high drain 18650 like a Sony VTC6 or Samsung 30Q would be good choices, or for a little more runtime a 21700 sized cell. I ended up going with a Sony VTC6 (3000mAh) for my runtime tests. Turbo steps starts stepping down after about a minute, until the 5 minute mark where you see the aggressive output step down to about 30% relative output. It held this for about 140 minutes. At this point it did more pronounced steps down to almost nothing at the 175 min mark. The light at this point is still on but only in moonlight mode, I left it for another 100 minutes and stopped the test, since it was clearly in need of a recharge. With larger capacity cells I would expect the time after the initial step down to be longer.

I didn’t do a lot of formal heat testing with this light but I can tell you that even with the fairly aggressive turbo stepdowns the head section of the light gets warm to touch as does the body. Nothing dangerous but it’s definitely normal.

 

UI

The Astrolux FT03 is using the enthusiast developed NarsilM Firmware V1.3 along with an e-switch which is great. By default it ships in the ramping mode which is what I like, it also has a stepped mode you can switch it in to if you want. It’s highly configurable and can be a little complicated depending on what you wish to do. The good news is there are lots of guides on Youtube and various cheat sheets on BLF forums that I will try to link to as well. A couple shortcuts I find myself using is double clicking to strobe.

NarsilM 1.3 Firmware Guide http://liquidretro.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/NarsilM1.3.pdf

 

Recharging

This light does have USB-C for recharging, but it won’t charge batteries that are at 4v or above which is a little strange. So if you need to top up a cell after a brief use you would need to take it out and use a charger. Frustratingly the light also won’t charge from a USB-C to C cable, it requires a USB-A to USB-C cable or a microUSB to USB-C adapter. When recharging the LED’s under the E switch turn red, and then go green when charged. Maximum charge rate I saw was 1.9A so pretty close to the 2A that’s advertised. This means charging speed is pretty quick even on larger 26650 and 21700 batteries. Terminal voltage was 4.149v.

Pro

  • Fantastic value thrower especially with USB-C recharging
  • Fit’s a wide variety of Batteries, 26650, 21700, 18650 (With included adapter).
  • Good LED and I appreciate the tint choices at this price range
  • NarsilM Firmware

 

Con

  • Only will charge via USB-A to USB-C cables, no C-C cables allow for charging.
  • Won’t recharge cells if they are above 4.0V
  • Not a small light, but that’s to be expected with most throwers
  • Aggressive turbo step downs but this can be modified with the firmware.

 

Conclusion

At this price point, especially with the coupon I have here, the Astrolux FT03 is the best value thrower of 2019 that I have tested thus far. It’s using the great NarsilM firmware that’s highly user configurable, it has onboard recharging via USB-C (Even though it’s not capable of C-C charging), and is available in Neutral White or Cool white for whichever you prefer. The short of it I recommend this one if your looking for a larger thrower light. Don’t forget to click that link in the description and check it out over on Banggod.

 

Pickup the Astrolux FT03 SST40-W at http://bit.ly/31CYUzb and use Coupon Code: BGAFT03 to get the light for $29.99 USA ONLY

 

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Olight PL-Pro Review (1500 Lumen Weapon Light & Comparisons with the PL-2)

Today I have a review of the Olight PL-Pro Weapon light. This is a version of the PL-2 that came out last year but the Pro offers Olights built in magnetic recharging system, an optional remote pressure switch and a neutral white LED. Thanks to SkyBen for sending this to me to take a look at.

 

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Packaging

Packaging follows Olights recent trends for 2019. A white high quality box with a photo of the light on the front and information on all sides. Inside the light pulls out from a tray. Below is all the accessories including the picatinny insert (Glock insert comes preinstalled), extra screws, Torx driver, MCC1A USB charger, and the manual. Skyben also included a battery holder (Even though this light doesn’t have replaceable batteries).

I also got with my light the RPL-7 magnetic pressure switch which came in a small zip top bag. It includes the remote pressure switch itself, and then an adapter so that the switch can be mounted or zip tied to a picatinny rail section.

Construction

The body itself is made from hard type anodized aluminum. The battery compartment is contoured to match the PL-2  that had removable batteries where as the PL-Pro has an internal non removable cell. The PL-Pro carries over the mounting system from the PL-2RL by having a metal rail piece. Out of the box this came with the Glock sized rail preinstalled, but you get a 1913 rail piece in the box as well as an allen wrench to change it. The quick detach mount is very sturdy, and requires no tools to attach to the light. It has tension on the mounting system even in unlocked so it won’t drop free without pushing in from the side, I like this two step open option, as it makes sure the light won’t fall off if accidentally bumped or the unlock lever gets reversed.

The rear switches and battery cover look the same from the PL-2, the only exception is that on the PL-Pro they don’t open. On the bottom there is the magnetic charging pad. There is a slightly raised up section

The RPL-7 remote pressure switch fits onto the bottom of the PL-Pro perfectly. It’s a stronger magnet then the charger which is good because it’s not something you would want to fall off. The cable is a similar flat siliconized cover. The button itself is plenty long. My only semi complaint would be the way it attaches to your rifle, I would prefer a mount that screws into Picatinny rail or that Olight would offer a MLok adapter.

Size & Weight

Size wise the PL-Pro is basically identical to the PL-2. The only difference at the bottom there are little extra nibs on the Pro for the recharging base making it a little thicker. I don’t have a way to test this myself but I suspect some holsters that fit the PL-2 will also fit the PL-Pro or could with a very slight modification.  Weight of the PL-Pro is actually about 13 grams lighter. The PL-Pro is IPX6 rated.

 

PL-Pro PL-2
Length 81mm 80mm
Height 32.4mm 30.5mm
Width 36.6mm 36.6mm
Weight 103.4g 116.1g

 

Mounted Photos

LED/Runtime/Beamshot

The Olight PL-Pro is using a Cree XHP 35 HI NW. This is the same LED as the the PL-2 but in a different tint. My PL-2 is in a cool white, and the PL-Pro right now is only coming in neutral white. While I applaud Olight for offering a neutral white (Usually my preference) the bin they chose here has a good amount of green in it, and it’s most noticeable in lower output modes. In my comparison shots here it’s noticeable which is cool white and which is neutral white.

The beam is identical to the PL-2 due to the same reflector and LED being used with the difference being the tint of the LED. The light has a medium sized hotspot that throws pretty well out to 100 yards or so.

 

PL-2 On Left  —  PL-Pro on the Right

PL-2 on the Left — PL-Pro on the Right

In my runtimes were pretty accurate with what Olight saw. The internal battery is rated for 900mAh. On the full 1500 lumens the light lasted for 1.5 minutes, past that it saw a 60% relative output decrease where it ran for 35 minutes. Now this sounds like a big drop and it is but this was still quite a bit of output at 300 lumens. Next the light saw a step down to right at 20% relative output where it ran for another 10 minutes before shutting off. Step downs at the beginning are timed and then voltage controlled from there on out. Step downs are sudden and sharp. It would be nice to add a couple of flashes at the end of the runtime giving one last warning before the light shuts off.

Recharging of the built in 900mAh battery is accomplished with Olights MCCA1 charging system. It’s compatible with other older charges from Olight, except for the one for the PL-Mini. I saw a complete recharge in 1 hour and 18 minutes at a max charge rate of 0.9A.

UI

UI is a little different but similar on the PL-Pro. The light has 2 modes, a low power 300 lumen mode and a high power 1500 lumen mode. It’s pretty easy to switch between them, Just double click on one of the paddles to jump up into high or medium mode, similar to how you get to turbo on other Olights. Low Power mode is more of a lockout mode so it won’t burn a hole through you bag accidentally. To activate it with the light on press one of the paddles for 3 second then press and hold the other till the light shuts off. At this point it’s in a low power 100 lumen mode Olight is calling Lockout. To reverse this just do this process again.

In either mode the light a quick press of a paddle locks the light on, a longer press gives you momentary, and pressing both together gives you strobe.

 

Pro’s

  • Rechargeable is really convenient and cheaper to run if you are going to use a lot of hours on it.
  • Nice integration with a remote pressure pad as an option, gives this light the ability to mount on a rifle as well.
  • Neutral white, but that green tint kind of kills the deal here for me
  • Some holsters that fit the PL-2 may fit the PL pro as they are similar in dimensions. Your luck may vary

 

Con’s

  • LED choice resulted in a beam that has a green tinge.
  • Battery isn’t user replaceable thus it’s a consumable light.
  • Timed step downs for turbo.  

 

Conclusion

The Olight PL-Pro Valkyrie continues to show what Olight has learned when making weapon lights. The little refinements like making a low power (still 300 lumens) lockout mode to prevent the light from literally burning a hold in your bag is a simple, smart idea. I like the integration of the remote pressure switch as well being magnetic, meaning it can break free with sufficient force if needed without damaging things. It’s easy to reattach too. Olights tint choices for LED’s continue to confuse me. My only thought about the choice of going with neutral white here was to aid hunters who are more likely to use the rechargeable version of this light to save runtime costs over the CR123 version, over the PL-2 being more designed for a tactical role, better shelf stable batteries etc. The downside of neutral white at least here is more green tint then I would like to see.


Overall if you liked the PL-2 you will like the PL-Pro, and if your interested check out Skyben’s listings on amazon, to get it super fast if you have prime shipping that is.